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R.I.P. Samuel E. Wright, Voice of Sebastian in The Little Mermaid Dead at 74

The beloved voice actor famously sang "Under the Sea" and "Little Mermaid"

Samuel E. Wright / Sebastian in The Little Mermaid
Samuel E. Wright / Sebastian in The Little Mermaid
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    Samuel E. Wright, who famously voiced Sebastian the crab in Disney’s 1989 animated musical film The Little Mermaid, has died at the age of 74.

    Wright’s death was announced by the town of Montgomery, New York, where the actor resided. “Sam was an inspiration to us all and along with his family established the Hudson Valley Conservatory,” a post on the town’s Facebook page reads. “Sam and his family have impacted countless Hudson Valley youth always inspiring them to reach higher and dig deeper to become the best version of themselves. On top of his passion for the arts and his love for his family, Sam was most known for walking into a room and simply providing PURE JOY to those he interacted with. He loved to entertain, he loved to make people smile and laugh and he loved to love.”

    As the role of Sebastian was created specifically for the film, Wright went into the audition under the impression he’d be playing a Sammy Davis, Jr.-type of character. Originally, Disney had written Sebastian with a Jamaican accent, but changed course when Wright performed with a Trinidadian accent.

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    As King Triton’s advisor and “distinguished” court composer, Sebastian sings two of Little Mermaid’s most iconic songs: “Kiss the Girl” and “Under the Sea”. The latter composition, composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman, went on win the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1989.

    Wright reprised Sebastian for two direct-to-video Little Mermaid sequels and a Saturday morning episodic TV series that ran three seasons between 1992 and 1994. He also recorded two reggae albums performing in-character.

    Wright also found much success on the stage as the recipient of two Tony nominations. His first came in 1984 for The Tap Dance Kid, and his second in 1998 for his role as Mufasa in the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King. He also appeared in the original production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971, and played the Scarecrow in the 1995 Apollo Theater revival of The Wiz.

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